The best way to experience the flavors of a country is through its regional foods. Moreover, Mexican cuisine has been influenced by many cultures over centuries and it’s easy to see why this food culture is so diverse. Here are some traditional dishes you should try when visiting Mexico!
20+ Traditional Dishes to Eat from Mexico:
1. Tacos al Pastor
The pork marinated overnight in citrus juices and spices is slow-cooked until tender before being skewered onto wooden sticks and grilled for several minutes per side. The result is juicy meat that falls off the bone with crispy skin. It’s served on soft white corn tortillas or made into tacos. You can find them at street stands all around Mexico City but they also have their own chain called “Tacos Al Pastor de la Palma”.
2. Chiles en Nogada
This dish consists of green chilies stuffed with poblano peppers, cilantro, almonds, raisins, olives, capers, garlic, onions, vinegar, salt, and pepper. They are then wrapped up in bacon and baked together. This recipe was brought to Mexico by Spanish immigrants who were fleeing religious persecution during the Inquisition.
3. Tamales De Pollo Y Habichuelas
Tamale dough filled with chicken and beans is steamed inside banana leaves. These tamales are usually sold fresh from vendors along streets throughout Mexico. If you want to make your own version, here is how to do it.
4. Ensaladas Mixtas
A salad is composed of different ingredients such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, radishes, carrots, cabbage, jicama, etc., mixed with dressing like vinaigrette, mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, guacamole, salsa verde, crema fresca or even cheese. There are two types of salads; one is dressed while the other is not. Salads without dressing are known as ensaladas sin salsa.
5. Torta Del Queso
It’s a sandwich made out of melted cheese between bread slices. Cheese varieties include quesillo, manchego, and Oaxaca cheese. Some versions add ham, avocado, tomato, onion, pickled vegetables, fried eggs, etc.
6. Flan Dulce
It’s an egg custard dessert similar to crème brûlée except instead of caramelized sugar topping, there is vanilla ice cream. To prepare flan dulce, beat yolks and whites separately, combine both mixtures and cook slowly stirring constantly until thickened. Add milk and continue cooking until the mixture coats the spoon. Remove from heat and cool completely. Fold whipped cream into cooled custard and pour into mold. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 4 hours or more. Serve chilled.
7. Sopa Azteca
Soup made with hominy, chili powder, lime juice, water, vegetable oil, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, bay leaf, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, garlic, onion, serrano chile, dried epazote, salt, and hot sauce. Traditionally eaten with warm tortilla chips.
Citrus-marinated raw fish or seafood is often used in Mexican cuisine. In addition to its use as a main ingredient, ceviche is commonly prepared as part of tapas menus.
9. Mole Poblano
Mole is a type of stew originating from pre-Hispanic cultures. Its name comes from the word molecule which means “to mix”. Today, many variations exist depending on regional preferences. A typical mole contains chocolate, nuts, fruits, herbs, spices, and seasonings.
Similar to nachos, tlayudas consist of deep fried corn tortillas covered with shredded beef, refried beans, cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes, sliced radish, chopped onion, minced garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Guaya is a white shirt worn primarily by young men. It has become synonymous with Cuban culture. The term “guayabo” originated from Cuba but spread all over Latin America.
Tortilla strips topped with scrambled eggs, sometimes called Huevos Rancheros, are served traditionally at breakfast time.
13. Tacos de Carne Asada
This snack consists of three layers rolled-up burrito style. These can be filled with any kind of meats, cheeses, veggies, sauces, etc.
Panuchos are small rolls that resemble hamburgers. They usually have pork rinds, onions, green peppers, olives, mustard, ketchup, sauerkraut, etc.
Empanadas are baked pastries typically containing potatoes, peas, spinach, cheese, bacon bits, sausage, etc.
Papusito literally translates to little potato. But this sweet treat resembles a miniature donut. It’s basically a savory pastry made with mashed plantains mixed with raisins, almonds, coconut flakes, powdered sugar, rum, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
18. Tortitas Ahogado
A popular street food found throughout Mexico. Basically, it’s a sandwich made with two soft flour tortillas soaked in lukewarm beer batter then panfried until golden brown. Served with toppings such as cabbage, avocado slices, tomato wedges, pickled jalapeños, queso fresco, crema Mexicana and mayonnaise.
Quesadillas are one of the most common foods available in restaurants across Mexico. There are different types of these dishes including; Rellenos, chile con carne, and polls encebollados.
20. Cazuela De Camarones. Shrimp Crepes
The shrimp crepe is an appetizer consisting of thin crispy pancakes dusted with fine breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese. Traditionally they’re flavored with lime zest and accompanied with guacamole, salsa verde, and sour cream.
Flans are custard-based desserts similar to eggnogs. Flans come in various flavors like mango, strawberry, pineapple, coffee, vanilla, caramelized milk, etc.
22. Sopa Azteca
Sopas are soups eaten during lunchtime. In Mexican cuisine, there are many varieties of soaps. Some examples include; caldo de res, caldo de frijol or caldo de camaron.
23. Pico de Gallo
Consisting of tomato, onion, serrano peppers, salt, cilantro, and lime juice, pico de gallo is a type of salsa, popular and common to use in Mexican cuisine. It can be used largely in similar ways as the Mexican salsas of more liquid consistencies, and because of its lack of liquid, it is popular to use as filling for tacos and fajitas.
Also known as “pierogi”, pambazo is a type of pasta shaped into balls that are boiled before being simmered for hours in broth.
24. Tlaxcala Tacos
Tlaxcala tacos are deep-fried cornmeal dough pockets stuffed with ground beef, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, diced white onion, and served with hot sauce.
25. Arroz Con Leche. Rice pudding
Rice pudding is considered a dessert in some countries while others consider it part of their main meals. Either way, rice pudding is delicious especially when prepared with condensed milk.
Chilaquiles means “little fried things” but what comes out of the skillet aren’t just little fried things. Instead, you get crisp tortilla strips topped with scrambled eggs, black beans, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, crumbled Cotija cheese, Oaxaca-style hot sauce, and more.
27. Enchilada Suiza. Swiss Fondue
Swiss fondue is traditionally cooked by dipping chunks of French bread into the pot of melted cheese. However, in Mexico, we’ve seen people dip nachos, chips, veggies, meatballs, chicken wings, etc. into the cheesy goodness.
This spicy stew consists of beef heart, tongue, kidney beans, chorizo sausage, garlic, onions, tomatoes, oregano leaves, bay leaf, black pepper, cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, coriander seeds, marjoram, cardamom pods, fennel seed, saffron threads, and anchovies.
29. Empanizado. Bread Sticks
Empanizado literally translates to stuffed bread. These savory treats are typically filled with beef, pork, turkey, ham, seafood, or even cheeses.
30. Guisados. Stewed Meats
Guisados are stews that originated in Latin American cooking. Commonly found in dishes like Carnitas, Frijoles Refritos and Caldo De Pollo.
Ceviche is raw fish or shellfish marinated in citrus juices. It has become very popular among foodies throughout North America.
32. Papaya Salad
Papayas are native to tropical regions around the world including Asia, Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. In Mexican cuisine, they’re often used fresh in salads or desserts.
Toasting is crispy fried plantains. You’ll find them at most street fairs and markets selling everything from fruit drinks to ice cream.
34. Flan de Coco. Coconut Custard Cake
Flans come in many different varieties; however, this coconut custard cake variation is definitely worth trying!
35. Sopa Azteca. Spicy Soup With Chicken And Vegetables
Sopas are soups commonly eaten during lunchtime in Mexico. Traditionally scopes include hominy, squash blossoms, chile pods, avocado leaves, cilantro sprigs, onion slices, tomato wedges, lime halves, etc.
36. Mango Ice Cream
Mangoes are native to India but were brought over to China and eventually spread across Southeast Asia. Today mangoes grow abundantly in Florida, California, Texas, and Hawaii.
One of the most popular main ingredients to put into your burrito, quesadilla, taco, you name it, is this dish, Mexican cuisine’s answer to pulled pork. It’s first seasoned and then slow-cooked until it becomes just the right type of crispy and juicy.
38. Pupusas. Corn Flatbread Sandwiches
A pupusa is essentially a flatbread sandwich. The filling varies depending on what region it originates from. Some common fillings include beans, potatoes, cabbage, cheese, meats, vegetables, etc.
39. Mole Poblano. Red Chile Sauce
This thick chocolate-based chili sauce comes from Puebla, Mexico. It contains an abundance of spices and nuts which give mole its distinct flavor.
Made of masa harina, the same kind of corn flour that corn tortillas are made of, Atole is a traditional Mexican beverage, perfect for winter mornings. It’s traditionally drunk during celebrations on Dia de Los Muertos and its roots date back all the way to the Aztecs’ and Mayans’ time.
Birria literally means “roast” in Spanish, and birria comes from northern Mexico. It’s a slow-roasted whole goat or lamb slowly cooked in spices such as cinnamon, clove, coriander seed, peppercorn, and chilies until tender enough to eat without chewing.